By May Chen, MS
Snacking has been misunderstood for a long time. Often, people think of snacking as a bad habit that makes you gain weight. But, when done right, snacking is a healthy way to keep from getting hangry or overeating at your next meal.
But don’t grab that bag of chips just yet. Making smart snacking choices AND practicing portion control are important for dealing with hunger and weight management. For active teens, a snack should have 150 to 300 calories from the MyPlate food groups, which include Grains, Proteins, Vegetables, Fruits, and Dairy products.
Check out the following 12 snacking examples that nutritionists would go for. They’re delicious, nutritious and require minimal skills to prepare!
To satisfy those sweet cravings…
- Fruit and Yogurt Parfait: Make this with layers of plain, low-fat yogurt and your favorite fruits. If you want some crunch, Original or Multi-Grain Cheerios are a better choice than granola, which is often high in sugar and calories.
- Smoothies: Combine low-fat Greek yogurt or milk, frozen or fresh fruit, fresh spinach or kale, and some ice cubes. Blend everything together until smooth.
- Fruit with low fat cottage cheese
- Fruit with nut butter: Dip sliced apples or banana into one spoonful of a nut or seed butter such as peanut, almond, or sunflower seed butter.
- Fruit Kabobs: Cut up fruit and stick the chunks on a skewer. Serve with low-fat yogurt dip.
If you’re on the go…
- Plain Popcorn: Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, dried spices and a pinch of salt.
- Trail Mix: Combine an assortment of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and pretzels or popcorn. Try mixing ¼ cup dried cranberries, 10 almonds, 1 teaspoon sunflower seeds & 1 cup popcorn for a satisfying, salty snack.
- Veggies with Hummus: Try baby carrots, celery stalks, bell pepper slices, cucumbers, broccoli or mushrooms dipped in hummus. There are lots of different hummus flavors to try, or you can make your own!
- Roasted vegetable chips: Try roasting kale, sweet potatoes, beets, green beans or chickpeas with salt and spices and a drizzle of olive oil.
If you want something closer to a light meal…
- Mini-pizza: Toast a whole wheat English muffin, drizzle with pizza sauce and sprinkle with low-fat mozzarella cheese and fresh baby spinach.
- Avo Taco: Mash an avocado with salsa and eat with 10-15 low-fat baked tortilla chips. Or, spread the mixture on a whole wheat tortilla, add some black beans, and roll it up.
- Turkey Lettuce Roll Ups: Roll three slices of turkey with 1 tablespoon mustard or low fat mayo and two leaves of romaine lettuce. Hold together with toothpicks.
Eating different combinations of foods can be very satisfying and help to curb hunger. Eat snacks that contain:
- Good carbohydrates: all fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat products, corn, barley, quinoa, millet, farro, etc.)
- Lean proteins: eggs, reduced-fat milk, yogurt, low-fat cheese, unsalted nuts and seeds, and beans
- Healthy fats: unsalted nuts and seeds, nut and seed butters, avocados, most vegetable oils (EXCEPT coconut oil and palm oil)
Bottom line: For healthy snacking, pay attention to both the types of snacks AND how much you’re eating.
Thanks to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for lots of smart snacking inspiration. You can find more ideas and recipes from them here.
If you’re 10-22 years old in NYC, stop by the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center for free, comprehensive healthcare including nutrition counseling and our free wellness program, Teen Fit!
May Chen, MS is a Dietetic Intern with Teachers College, Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian in Taiwan and holds a Master’s degree in Human Nutrition from Columbia University. May believes that in addition to learning how to make better food choices, keeping a healthy relationship with foods is fundamental to our overall well-being. She has a particular interest in child nutrition as she believes that an individual’s eating preferences and habits are established early in life.
The Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center is located in New York City. It provides comprehensive, confidential, integrated, judgment-free health care at no charge to over 10,000 young people every year. This column is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual, only general information for education purposes only.